Karen writes about life as a Quiltmaker in Austin, Texas; surviving in an empty nest, marriage, cooking, gardening and (did I say?) Quilting...

Sunday, August 11, 2013

60 Years of Love for Nancy and Harold...

August 12, 1953. Nancy Lee Fillette and Harold Willis Alexander tied the knot in Alexandria, Louisiana. Mom turned 18 two days later, Dad was 22.
Dad was a young,  Air Force recruit, who met my then 16 year old mother as she was selling books at  the base shop. It must have been love at first sight, as they met the year before, and had already had a long love by letter communication relationship. Dad was shipped off to Germany for several months of duty. He wrote letters to her EVERY day during his tour of duty there. It was the height of the Korean War, Dad was happy to be in Germany, he said to me recently that "no one with any brains wanted to do service in Korea",so he joined the Air Force, hoping to learn to fly. Alas, his eyesight (and height - 5'7") precluded him from flight school, however his experience as an auto mechanic led him to jet mechanic school, and ultimately to Alexandria for training, where he met Mom.

I have many of those love letters, lovingly wrapped in ribbon, each stack with a daily conversation. Hard to imagine in today's world of minute to minute communication.... a letter written in response to a letter that may have been written weeks ago! They are wonderful, but private correspondence, I've only had the courage to read one or two. They show the very beginning of a close, loving relationship... the start of 60 Years of Love.

They went on to marry in Alexandria, and moved back to Dad's family hometown (then)of Waco, Texas, where he went to school at Baylor University on the GI Bill after his service. He graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, majoring in the fine arts. His chosen profession, that of sign painter was one that he'd already become proficient at since the age of 14, learning the skill from his Uncle Neill. They went on to have three children, myself the oldest in 1955, my sister Donna,  coming shortly in 1957, with my youngest (and the last) David, in 1963.

Mom and Dad took up residence in the booming young city of Dallas in the late '50's, with Dad working for many years at one of the biggest sign shops in town, McAx signs. he went on to a 40 year career, eventually working under his own name (HWA Signs) until well into his 60's. Mom, a woman of the 50's, settled into the life of a housewife, working only a few years after the kids left home, with both of them retiring in their 60's, to a home in Desoto, and later Grand Prairie.

10 years ago, in 2003, we celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary, with friends and family, at their church home of 30 years, The Oaks Baptist Church (formerly 1st Baptist Church of Oak Cliff), in Grand Prairie. They were serenaded by the pastor, Bill White, a nephew and  serious "sound alike" of his uncle, Jim Reeves. His rendition of Elvis "I can't help falling in love with you" was incredible. Everyone had a fabulous time, and who has a good time at a 50th wedding anniversary? I treasure the pictures of Mom and Dad holding hands, cutting the cake, and having a GREAT time!

Now, my father lives with me and my husband Joe, here in Austin. Today, Dad, went out with Joe to select a little bouquet of flowers for Mom, and a special dessert for her anniversary dinner tomorrow. You see, Mom now suffers from Alzheimer's disease, and, now in the later stages of the disease, must live away from Dad at a nearby nursing center where she receives 24 hour care that he can no longer provide. Dad loved her so that he continued to try to care for her as long as he could - until November of last year, when he became overwhelmed by the needs of careing for a seriously ill partner after too many years of suffering through this horrible disease.

Dad and Mom both moved to Austin, where Dad could live more comfortably with us, and Mom, could receive the 24 hour care that she needs. Dad visits Mom two or three times a week. While his heart is breaking, he still does his duty, and visits her. He is one of the few faces she still reliably recognizes, and he tries to provide some small token, a dessert, a hug, holds her hand, a few hours of company, to brighten her day.

It is a tough duty chosen for him, not chosen himself, as she is often not happy, and no longer behaves as the woman he knew and loved for so many years. It is something we would all hope we would not have to choose for ourselves - to have to be with someone who, for all intents and purposes, is no longer the one we knew, the one we wrote those love letters to so long ago, the one we fell in love with 60 YEARS AGO! Although sometimes she seems almost a stranger, she still responds to his touch, or a kiss, and shows that she still recognizes him as someone important to her, though she can no longer communicate that to him in a knowing way.

Tomorrow, we'll visit Mom, try to give her an enjoyable lunch, a gift, and maybe, just maybe, we'll enjoy a small bit of recognition or a few minutes of clarity and connection with her. But most of all, I will be celebrating those wonderful 60 YEARS of LOVE, and will honor that love, in what ever way I can. I hope that by posting this story, that you too will know what is possible, that two people can indeed live and love together for 60 years, and that you'll feel just a little bit of that love in your life too.....

If you wish to send your love, you can send a card or letter to Nancy Alexander, c/o Gracy Woods Nursing Care Center, Room 208, 12021 Metric Blvd., Austin, Tx 78758-8616, or stop in an visit any day.
If you stop by on a Monday or a Thursday, you'll probably get to visit with Dad too!
  - Karen Alexander, August 12, 2013